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Chris Kolenda: Unruly Student Protests Show the Price of Double Standards

Unruly Student Protests Show the Price of Double Standards

The universities that enforced progressive orthodoxy for years are seeing the fruits of their labor in unruly student protests. 

These protesters have taken over buildings, forced universities to cancel graduation ceremonies, barred Jewish students from campus areas, and issued threats of physical violence against them. 

One protest leader reportedly said to Columbia University administrators in January, “be glad, be grateful that I’m not just going out and murdering Zionists.” His outburst was tolerated; he was barred from campus months later when a video from the meeting went viral.  

Emotions are high on both sides of the Gaza conflict, and protests are a natural response to intense dissatisfaction. I’ve put my life on the line to defend America’s cherished right to air your views and protest policies you don’t agree with. I support the students’ rights to protest, and I disagree with how they are exercising them (especially considering the infiltration from professional agitators). Selective enforcement of the rules by university administrators created this disaster.

Many universities have bought into the crude bigotry that judges the worth of a person based on their membership in certain identity groups and created monocultures to enforce conformity. The intentional lack of viewpoint diversity has super-empowered favored groups, who’ve taken their license to its logical conclusion.

Viewpoint diversity is vital for a successful university as well as a successful business. The best companies encourage people to express their disagreements respectfully because you want people to flag problems before they become crises and offer fresh ideas that seize opportunities. If you only let favored people speak their views or shut down ideas you disagree with, you will soon find yourself trapped in a thought bubble, inhaling your own gas. 

The way forward for universities is to make sure protests meet three requirements: 

  1.  you may disagree agreeably – no intimidation or threats of harm to others
  2. you must allow all students to access campus facilities freely
  3. you may not impede university programs or functions

You can set similar rules for your business. Encourage people to disagree agreeably and give people the skills to receive new ideas and reports of problems with an open mind so everyone gets their ideas heard without fear of retribution. Prompt people to orient on your company’s common good (your mission and vision, goals and values, standards and expectations) so their disagreements create rather than impede progress.

These guidelines will help you maintain the healthy conflict that is vital to your company’s growth. 

Do you want to boost your company’s conflict management skills? 

I’ve helped motivate insurgent groups in Afghanistan to stop fighting and switch sides and even prompted the Taliban to write an open letter to the American people requesting peace talks. I’ve helped companies, nonprofits, and first responders move from intractable internal conflict to agreeable disagreement, dramatically improving performance, morale, and well-being.

Let’s set up a time to discuss whether strengthening conflict management skills would help your organization thrive. Simply send me an email or click here to find a time that works best for you.